MARQUETTE - Coach Brad Nelson hopes slow starts are a thing of the past for his Marquette Senior High School boys basketball team.
The past three years, the Redmen have started 3-8, 3-6 and 4-6, but during the last two campaigns, finished strongly to end at 13-9 and 13-8.
"This year, hopefully we'll avoid the slow start, since our guys know what we run and what I expect from them," Nelson said.
"I think we have an interesting situation.... We have size but also four starters who can shoot the ball from anywhere."
The starting five averages nearly 6-foot-4, including 6-6 senior forward Mark Pap, runner-up as Great Northern Conference Player of the Year last season.
"A lot of things on offense go through him," Nelson said about Pap's 14 points and 10 rebounds per game last season. "Mark put on some weight, some muscle, and worked on his game this summer.
MSHS boys 2012-13 Schedule
Dec. 11 - At Gladstone, 7:15 p.m.
Dec. 13 - Negaunee, 7:20 p.m.
Dec. 18 - Escanaba, 7:20 p.m.
Dec. 21 - Sault Ste. Marie, 7:20 p.m.
Dec. 27 - At TC Central, 7 p.m.
Dec. 28 - At TC West, 1 p.m.
Jan. 7 - At Iron Mountain, 7:45 p.m.
Jan. 11 - Menominee, 7:20 p.m.
Jan. 15 - At Ishpeming, 7:45 p.m.
Jan. 24 - At Kingsford, 8 p.m.
Jan. 29 - Westwood, 7:20 p.m.
Feb. 1 - At Menominee, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 5 - Gladstone, 7:20 p.m.
Feb. 8 - At Escanaba, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 12 - Ishpeming, 7:20 p.m.
Feb. 14 - At Negaunee, 7:45 p.m.
Feb. 22 - Kingsford, 7:20 p.m.
Feb. 26 - At Gwinn, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 28 - At Houghton, 7:20 p.m.
"A lot of kids look up to him in our program. That's because of his leadership and his desire to compete and to win."
Nelson said Pap has a soft shooting touch, can hit the midrange jumper and has excellent footwork that allows him to guard smaller forwards.
The Redmen's grindout presence inside is 6-7 senior center A.J. Grazulis.
"He's a bigger, strong kid around the basket who has good hands and does an excellent job receiving the ball from the perimeter," Nelson said, adding that it's tough to stop his inside moves.
"Defensively around the basket, he makes people wary about trying to finish on him."
Two junior starters return from last year's varsity team - 6-2 forward Larry Burnette and 6-2 guard Andy Nyquist.
"Larry put on a lot of muscle, so he's very, very strong," Nelson said. "And he probably has the best footwork on the team."
Burnette has a soft touch around the basket, but can also fill it up from the perimeter and is quick enough to guard any player in the Upper Peninsula.
"But he's smart and he knows where to position himself, so he doesn't have to just chase guys around on defense," his coach said.
Nyquist was the off-guard as a sophomore but moves to the point.
"He'll be our point guard for the next two years," Nelson said. "Now that's he had a year of experience on the varsity, he's used to the speed of this game."
He worked on bulking up and on his ball-handling skills during the offseason, and already was a smart player, excellent shooter and had good footwork.
The final starter is projected to be 6-1 junior guard Brad Brow.
"There were several players who we could've picked, but Brad fills the requirements we're looking for in the fifth spot," Nelson said. "He's an outstanding shooter and he's fast, knows the game and is a smart player."
He will be the lockdown defender on the opposition's biggest threat at guard.
Top reserves include 6-6 senior forward Trevor Havican, a physical player who can shoot from midrange; 6-5 senior forward Chris Process, who's quick, hustles and is a good shooter; 5-8 junior point guard Cam Grant, an excellent ball handler and shooter; and 6-3 sophomore guard-forward Connor Brazeau, a smart, detail-oriented player with a big future.
The lineup is rounded out by 5-8 junior guard Drew Leadbetter, 6-foot senior forward Jacob Ogea, 6-4 junior forward-center Joseph Dolan and 6-2 junior forward David Bashaw.
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.